The newest member of the ever-expanding Planet of the Apes family, Steve Zahn, joins the successful franchise as Bad Ape, a character with a troubled past and unique connection to hero Caesar. Culture Trip spoke to the Hollywood star about the film and the effects involved in bringing talking monkeys to the big screen.
Culture Trip (CT): In War for the Planet of the Apes, you play a fresh addition to the series. What was it like playing the character?
Steve Zahn (SZ): It was great. I mean it was such a well-written character right off the bat. I was very excited to play this guy and yeah, it’s exciting to be a part of something so huge and be kind of this intricate part of not only the story but this fresh kind of different speed. The guy has been on a different journey with Caesar and his pals. Pretty heavy trip.
CT: And we get a sense of that with the snatches of his backstory that we hear. How far into that did you delve and develop?
SZ: Not that much, I mean what was important to me about his backstory is that he comes from the Portlands Zoo, and escaped and learned how to talk right. Most of his things come from humans, so he has a different way of thinking. I think that makes him a little different.
His speed is different. He’s maybe a little more human in certain ways, but he goes off in the mountains, he’s living with other chimps. They die and he’s by himself for a couple of years and he’s living in his ski lodge. And then they [Caesar and his group] come along, they find him and they are amazed that there’s other chimps out there; other apes that have survived that aren’t just in their clan. He’s amazed that there’s anyone at all, you know? So what was important to me was that history of solitude that drives him. You know he goes to places that are completely against his instincts, and yet he does it just for companionship.
CT: This comes out when you think he’s afraid. Not necessarily a coward, but he’s got justification for not being as brave as some of the others…
SZ: No, you’re right. I mean he really is the audience in a way. You know wherever they go he’s always kind of appearing between people, thinking ‘Where?! What, are you nuts?!’ You know he’s that guy, which is what I often play. I like playing those guys that are that are kind of the audience. He’s commenting like ‘Whoa whoa whoa. you’re nuts.’
CT: Would that be your natural reaction to that sort of situation, or are you more like Caesar?
SZ: No way! I’m like, you go. I’ll be… I’ll be right behind you. He also develops throughout the course of the story because of the relationships he develops with the other apes. And, of course, the relationship with Nova [a young girl rescued by Caesar].
You know, we became very close just because our characters are close. I think right off the bat my first reaction to her is that she’s cold. I know that and Caesar has a different bond too.
Actually Caesar and my character have probably got the closest bond because of their experience. And they’re in there. They share the experience of loss. That’s very similar. And that’s why he actually goes with them. And it’s a great moment for Bad Ape.
CT: By the end, where is Bad Ape? I mean we know he’s in a bad place, but is he taking more of a leadership role by that point?
SZ: I don’t now. I really think it could be. Yes. Maybe like the mouthpiece. Actually, no, he’s kind of more like the preschool teacher, he’s in charge of the kids. He’s like the events planner.
CT: He does he does step up though. I mean he does step up very well.
SZ: Oh yeah. Yeah definitely. There are glimpses of him being more a part of a community I think, which is how I like to think of it. He’s kind of an individual at the start, and then he starts becoming part of this group, you know, naturally, which is really cool.
CT: We just spoke to [director] Matt Reeves and we were talking about the special effects, which are still the best in Hollywood – or in movies – in general, because you watch it and you can’t tell that they are special effects. You see the chimps and you see the horses and you just say ‘well how did they get a monkey to ride a horse?’ and realise they didn’t do any of that…
SZ: I assumed everything would be like that too, but I was surprised when I went to work that it was really like shooting any other movie.
The avalanche at the end was probably the only thing I didn’t really recognise when I watched the film. That was the only time I was like ‘okay, we did that in the studio’, where we climbed these fake trees but we still hung onto them and you know, and that’s what blew me away.
War for the Planet of the Apes is on general release from July 11
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.